Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bye Bye BAM

This morning as I was slowly reading the Sunday paper, an advertisement in the main section caught my eye.

Books-A-Million in Roanoke is shutting its doors.

The bookstores are dropping like flies that have passed through a cloud of Raid. Soon not even the chains will have bricks and mortar stores, and we'll all be ordering off Amazon.

This is not the first major bookstore closing recently. Ram's Head Bookstore, the area's largest and most interesting independent book dealer. The owners retired, closing the doors. Printer's Ink also closed its doors. Also, while it affected fewer people, Hollins University's bookstore stopped stocking textbooks.

Soon we'll be left with only Barnes & Noble in this area, which according to reports is teetering financially.

This scares me. It also makes me very sad.

It scares me because Amazon has already shown, in at least a few instances, that it won't hesitate to reach into your Kindle and pull your purchase back. And the fact that it can do that is frightening. Why should this company have the final say over what you read, what you learn, and what you think?

What if, say, the government decides that you shouldn't be reading 1984, because it might give you ideas? And you bought it on your e-reader, not as a hard copy? And then poof, it's not there anymore, so you can't go back and revisit that again. In part that's because you're not buying the actual book, you're buying a license to read the book. While the model may eventually change (thanks to litigation, necessity, and money (but not morality)), that's how things are at the moment. E-readers are also moving from their own stand-alone units to being on apps on mobile phones and tablets.

I don't know about you, but my eyes are not too happy about trying to read a long work on an e-reader, let alone on a phone screen. I have an e-reader and still prefer a real book. I don't have to plug up a real book. And a real book doesn't access my email or Facebook or have other distractions.

So I guess I'm a dinosaur. I like paper.

The loss of yet another bookstore in my area means I will have one less place to go and feel at home. One less place to browse to find things I might not otherwise read. One less way to enlarge my world. One less place to get away from it all.

It seems like everything I care about - reading, liberal arts, art, English, morality - all of that stuff has gone by the wayside. There are enclaves of writers and readers still, but more and more they are being cast aside like so much rubbish. All that matters anymore are tech inventions - being able to code is so much more desired than being able to write a strong sentence.

We are losing so much in this headlong dash to destroy ourselves that I am starting to think it will be a good thing when we are all gone. Mother Nature must be throwing up every time she looks at humanity.

I used to embrace technology but I eventually realized it was an insidious beast that eats its young. I stopped trying to keep up with the new and improved in the race to the bottom. I refuse to go there though I know now that is where I will end up in this topsy-turvey world we have created.

Books-A-Million opened its chain store in Roanoke in the late 1990s. I thought it was great. Rams Head was over on the other side of town for me, and while BAM didn't have the same stock of poetry and writing books, it carried some. When WaldenBooks closed it was nice to know there were other choices.

I frequented them all and alternated purchases between them. Each offered a unique selection, a different feel. And now they're gone.

Bye Bye BAM. I guess B&N will be next.


  1. could you explain more what you mean about pulling books back from you Kindle? i have one - so i am curious what you mean? i use amazon.... so that makes me a bit nervous. ) :

  2. I hadn't heard that about Amazon repossessing a book. What are the circumstances under which they do that???

  3. oh that is sad news. i love bam...i love wandering through a book store...and i too prefer a real book to an e-reader version. i have had a nook for a couple of years and have yet to read a whole book on it. i mostly use it for games and internet surfing while in bed.

  4. I figured when B&N opened a Valley View store that BAM's days were numbered.

  5. I like paper books too! You can glance through, just look at the pictures, read the last page whenever you please... and wandering through a bookstore or library to see what's there is so pleasant!

  6. Beth and Rebecca: Read the article to which Anita linked for info about Amazon deleting books off of peoples' Kindles. Though she linked to only one article, I have heard of this happening with other books as well.

    We do not have BAM in this area, and lost first B. Dalton, then Waldenbooks, and then Borders over a number of years since B&N built stores on either side of town. While they can seem like large impersonal warehouses, I've also noted that, since rolling out the Nook, they have decreased actual shelf space in their stores. It has become much more difficult to find older books in series, and B&N's Nook does not offer the variety Amazon's Kindle does.

    I have waffled over getting one or the other. While I like the Nook, not as many books seem available for that device. On the other hand, There's the threat of having books removed from your Kindle, and I have also heard it is more difficult to replace batteries.

    Of course, as Linda said, there's nothing quite like reading a printed book. I like being able to flip to an earlier section of the book to reread a passage or check something. I like the smell and feel of printed books, and being able to browse actual bookshelves. Plus, I would never take an ebook into the bathtub with me. That has disaster written all over it, and it's much cheaper to replace a paperback than a pricy ereader should you accidentally drown it.

  7. I'm a "real" book lover too. I finally got all my books out and up on the shelves after the move.... such a great feeling to see them again and have them to thumb through.
    Have you ever tried AbeBooks? It's an online clearing place for independent book sellers (some with brick and mortar stores and others who are web only. GREAT prices and a terrific rating system. It's my go-to for ordering books if I can't find it at one of our local bookshops.


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